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Writing for the Pastoral Life, Day the First

November 11, 2010

the good news is, no kids. the bad news is, no kids.

So thanks to the Collegeville Institute and the MACUCC’s Pastoral Excellence Program, eleven colleagues and I are being treated to wonderful digs, food and programs for a week in scenic Woodstock, Vermont. It’s a grand time of year to be up here, and even at just the first evening the conversations have been great and excitement is high for the days of programs ahead.

Pastors write. All the time. Sermons, e-mails, blogs (yep), newsletter articles, reports, grants, poetry and sometimes even grants. Bring ten pastors into a room and I bet you’ve got at least a couple who have written a short story or published an article in some journal or other. What most pastors don’t seem to have is time: time to go to workshops, time to take classes, time to be in the writing game the way most other hobbyist writers are. When I first heard that this opportunity was being offered near us, it was a no-brainer. I really wanted to be a part of it, and I am grateful for the opportunity. Out of pocket is fractional compared to just what we’d spend to stay at the Inn, so I’d say the value is fantastic.

We’re using the Gotham Writers’ Workshop critique method to approach the pieces that we submitted in advance. Each day three folks will each have a turn to be “in the booth,” which is to say, “close your mouth and take lots of notes while people talk about your work.” You’re allowed to ask clarifying questions, but really the process is about basking in the glow of critique for  time. We’ll address three works a day over a two-hour session in the afternoon. We’ll also have a “conversation/presentation” piece in the morning, and there are various opportunities throughout the week for cultural events, hikes and of course writing time.

That last one was one of the most compelling reasons to come. I’ve had two books done for quite a while, one that I got back from a very generous first reader who gave me a lot of notes and things to consider, and the other still getting some finishing touches. I brought both in hard-copy to mark up and work on when time permits. I don’t plan to finish either, but the idea of having free time to dedicate to just fussing over my work is so exciting. At home, it feels indulgent. Let’s see, work on a manuscript handle the pile of dishes and change another diaper? It’s not really a choice, but as a result, dishes and diapers get done, but editing doesn’t.

The piece I submitted for critique is really an article I’d submit to something like Christian Century. Fiction flows for me, but non-fiction work like essay still presents a challenge, so I hope I get some good stuff to think about on that piece. I don’t want kid gloves. I want to know where I blew it and what folks would do to fix it. If you’ve done conferences like this before, you might know the mix of trepidation and excitement you get when someone looks at your work and weighs in. I’ve never done it, so I’m jazzed to see what it will be like.

I’ll keep checking in over the next week as relevant. A little different from the usual federated fare, but hopefully still fun to check in with.

By the way, three new sermons up at the sermon podcast: August 1st, October 24th (by Student Minister Bruce Baker) and last Sunday, November 11th. Thanks to folks who have gotten involved to help with the recording process! They are cached here.


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One Comment
  1. Hi Charley – Glad you’re enjoying the conference! Do you mind if I post your blog entry on the MACUCC’s new website? Thanks! Tiffany

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